Is Depression the Root of Cocaine Abuse?

People abuse drugs for a variety of reasons. Some people want to feel good, others want to relax, and some don’t want to feel anything at all. Underneath those reasons is often a problem that needs to be addressed—abuse, PTSD, grief, or mental illness. Sometimes, one of the underlying causes of substance abuse is depression.

What Is Depression?

As clinically defined by doctors and mental health professionals, depression is a mental health condition marked by depressed mood or a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities lasting at least two weeks. In order to receive a diagnosis, the depression must last most of the day and nearly every day in that time period, and individuals must exhibit five or more of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling sad, empty, or unhappy
  • Feeling angry, irritable, or frustrated
  • Feeling agitated, anxious, or restless
  • Emotional outbursts over small issues
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities
  • Insomnia
  • Sleeping too much
  • Lack of energy
  • Excessive difficulty completing tasks
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Slowed ability to respond to people or situations
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Feelings of blame and self-doubt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Suicide attempts
  • Unexplained physical pain, such as headaches or back pain

When suffering from prolonged depression, some people may be tempted to use cocaine to deal with the painful symptoms of this disorder.

Why Use Cocaine to Deal with Depression?

Cocaine is a CNS stimulant, which means it increases the activity of the brain and body. It increases heart rate and blood pressure, and it produces feelings of euphoria, confidence and energy. Temporarily, cocaine will counter some of the effects of depression, such as self-doubt or lack of energy. However, when withdrawing from cocaine, a user is likely to feel side effects that mimic depression, such as anxiety, difficulty concentrating, physical pain and even suicidal thoughts. To avoid these negative emotions, a person must then continue to use cocaine, creating a downward cycle of depression and addiction.

Dealing with Depression and Cocaine Addiction

A person who struggles with both an addiction and another problem, such as depression, has what is called a Dual Diagnosis, a co-occurring condition or a comorbid condition. These terms indicate that an individual must be treated for both problems simultaneously, rather than just one condition. If you suffer from depression and cocaine addiction, it is important to get professional help in treating both issues at the same time. Dealing only with the addiction without addressing the root causes will likely lead to relapse.

During treatment, you may be prescribed medication to counter chemical imbalances that often accompany depression. In addition, you will address any reasons depression might have developed initially, such as a past traumatic event or a recent loss. You will also identify triggers that would cause you to want to use cocaine again, as well as skills to help you cope with stressors of life without the use of cocaine.

Finding Help for Depression and Cocaine Addiction

If you or someone you love has developed a cocaine addiction because of depression, we can help. You can call our toll-free helpline any time, 24 hours a day to talk with one of our admissions coordinators about your symptoms, and they will help you find a facility that specializes in treating co-occurring conditions. Call us today.

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